The art may be ancient, but Pune-based artist Adrita Das's Tumblr project Gods Taking Selfies is contemporary culture staring right back at you
For an atheist who claims that her mother had a Facebook account before she did, 24-year-old Adrita Das is pretty keyed into both, religious iconography and social media. Fresh out of design school, and part of a new generation of artists that has grown up in the social media age, she's the creator of Gods Taking Selfies — a Tumblr account (selfiegods) which collects together devotional images and miniature paintings, all Photoshopped to include smart phones.
While part of what makes her work so engaging is its freshness (when was the last time you saw Radha Krishna clicking a selfie?), a large part of the explanation has to come from the fact that she is absolutely in tune with the zeitgeist. "The last time I took a selfie was in Hampi. Yesterday. I'm also afflicted. Everyone is. It has seeped into our culture too deeply. But that's what makes it so interesting, and so funny," says Das, who has a longstanding interest in religion and popular culture.
One of her most recent posts, a GIF made up of three Rajasthani miniature paintings, is captioned: Bae snapchatting wedding season selfies like… On what inspired it, Das says, "there was a point in February where my social media feeds were only weddings."
Even if the caption's millennial idiom doesn't speak to you, chances are scrolling through Facebook and feeling like the whole world is getting married at the same time does. What also makes Das' work stand out are the layers of humour, and her attention to detail. "I think about the type of phone I use. In one where the begum is wearing heavy jewellery, I found a really bling iPhone cover to suit her," shares Das, who has also coded the site to give the warning message: 'All right click downloads have been cursed personally by Lord Shiva', if you try and save one of her images.
For Pune-based Das, who graduated from Bengaluru's Srishti School of Art Design and Technology with an illustration major in 2014, Gods Clicking Selfies has generated more attention than she imagined. "I work in the design studio of a corporate IT firm. This whole Gods Taking Selfies thing is a Photoshop project which takes my mind off whatever else I'm working on," she shares.
In fact, it started by chance — an offshoot of a start-up which never got off the ground. "I was planning a merchandising company, involving Indian Gods and Goddesses, with a Spanish contact. The concept of Gods Taking Selfies was something we were going to use for marketing," she says.
When that fell through, though, she couldn't let get go off the idea. "There are some images that I cannot not Photoshop a phone into," she laughs. And that's the beauty of her images and GIFs — when you look at them, you can't imagine them without the phone — the synergy is perfect.
A painting of a dancer with a camera photoshopped into it
Potentially up next is Gods Taking Selfies on Snapchat, "I think a lot can be done with Snapchat, as it's personal updates about what you're doing. If the Gods had that, it could be really funny. I just need to get my head around the format," Das says.
Radha and Krishna were modern-day lovers, could their cutsie selfies be far behind?